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From the City to the Bush

Manilla's newest mine hosts the Imperial's Sue and Matt Beaven who recently made a huge tree change from Newcastle to the north west bush.

Novocastrians Matt and Sue Beaven admit to diving headlong into the deep end when they purchased the Manilla Imperial Hotel freehold.

But the former part-time high school woodwork teacher and teacherís aid respectively are completely focused on serving up ìa cold beer, hot food and a warm smileî in their new adventure as publicans.

The couple agree that they made a huge tree change (and still havenít figured out why yet) when selling their home of 20 years in Newcastle and moving north to the bush ñ ìitís even a treasure hunt to find socks at the momentî Matt joked. But a determination to place the Imperial on the northern hotelsí map is driving the newcomers.

Weíve only been here for a week now, and basically living on two hoursí sleep a night, but we absolutely love it. Everyone, including other publicans and the whole community have been really keen to give us a hand when needed,î Matt said. Short-term plans are to get the kitchen back up and running, offer hot food and update the accommodation facilities. ìWeíve got it now, lock, stock and barrel, and our plan is to run it ourselves.

So why the small township of Manilla? Simple according to Matt and Sue. Back in July Matt was part of the Livin Tour which promoted menís mental health. Itís based on the ëIt Ainít Weak to Speakí theme where we visited various country towns and hotels urging people to visit their local pubs to talk it out with their mates, Matt said.

Going into this pub was a bit of a thought bubble. I came here during the tour, and loved it. This pub sort of stood out, and it was under offer. After Iíd gone home, the real estate rang suggesting we get up here quick. That was it, and our feet havenít touched the ground since.

Sue added that all their chips were on the table ñ ìit was one or the other decision, either quickly sell our house and come here, or just donít do it at allî she said.

Signing on the dotted line though threw the couple (and their 13-year-old son David who has enrolled in the local high school) into turmoil. They knew nothing of running a hotel, and openly admit as much.

We had to learn quickly, so just asked for help, and got it. Everyone has been so helpful towards us. Probably the main things were learning to do beer lines as well as all the administration side of it, Matt said.

While Sue jokes that Matt has ìsawdust for brainî because of his love of working with timber as one of only 50 qualified wood machinists in furniture production in the country, she has an impressive list of achievements herself. Apart from helping rear the coupleís three boys ñAaron who is in IT and Sean a motor mechanic in Newcastle, and Year 7ís David, Sueís talents include being a qualified teacherís aid, sheís an electrician by trade, has a degree in fine arts where she majored in photography, and was ìin the right place at the right timeî in becoming a Joeyís Scout leader.

When David was six, he joined the Joeyís and they needed a leader. I was always there with him, so thought why not, I can do that. There was a hole, and filled it,î she joked.

That was seven years ago, and only last weekend, Sue was awardedThe Wood Badge, which she modestly admits to being the highest achievement for a leader within the scouting movement. Matt and Sue have a commendable attitude towards becoming Manillaís newest mine hosts ñ ìweíre not in it for the money. As long as we can make enough to live and support ourselves comfortably, thatís all we want. This is our home nowî they both echoed.

Photo: Manillaís newest mine hosts ñ the Imperialís Sue and Matt Beaven who recently made a huge tree change from Newcastle to the north west bush. By Vinnie Todd